Part 5 out of 5
Grant read the message a second time, wondering what remark of his
could have occasioned it. As he recalled the evening's conversation
it had been most about his experiment, and he had a sense that he
had occupied a little more of the stage than strictly good form
would have suggested. However, it was HIS scheme that had been
under discussion, and he did not propose to let it suffer for lack
of a champion. But what had he said that could be of more than
general interest to Zen Transley? For a moment he wondered if she
had created a pretext upon which to bring him to the house by the
river, and then instantly dismissed that thought as unworthy of him.
At any rate it was evident that his addressing her by her Christian
name in the last message had given no offence. This time she had
not called him "The Man-on-the-Hill," and there was no suggestion of
playfulness in the note. Then the signature, "Yours, Zen"; that
might mean everything, or it might mean nothing. Either it was
purely formal or it implied a very great deal indeed. Grant
reflected that it could hardly be interpreted anywhere between those
two extremes, and was it reasonable to suppose that Zen would use it
in an ENTIRELY formal sense? If it had been "yours truly," or
"yours sincerely," or any such stereotyped conclusion, it would not
have called for a second thought, but the simple word "yours"--
"If only she were," thought Grant, and felt the color creeping to
his face at the thought. It was the first time he had dared that
much. He had not bothered to wonder much where or how this affair
must end. Through all the years that had passed since that night
when she had fallen asleep on his shoulder, and he had watched the
ribbons of fire rising and falling in the valley, and the smell of
grass-smoke had been strong in his nostrils, through all those
years Zen had been to him a sweet, evasive memory to be dreamed
over and idealized, a wild, daring, irresponsible incarnation of
the spirit of the hills. Even in these last few days he had
followed the path simply because it lay before him. He had not
sought her out in all that great West; he had been content with his
dream of the Zen of years gone by; if Fate had brought him once
more within the orbit of his star surely Fate had a purpose in all
its doings. One who has learned to believe that no bullet will
find him unless "his name and number are on it" has little
difficulty in excusing his own indiscretions by fatalistic
He wrote on the back of the note, "Look for me at eight," and then,
observing that the boy had not brought teddy along, he inquired
solicitously for the health of the little pet.
"He's all right, but mother wouldn't let me bring him. Said I
might lose him." The tone in which the last words were spoken
implied just how impossible such a thing was. Lose teddy! No one
but a mother could think such an absurdity.
"But I got a knife!" Wilson exclaimed, his mind darting to a
happier subject. "Daddy gave it to me. Will you sharpen it? It
is as dull as a pig."
Grant was to learn during the day that all the boy's figures of
speech were now hung on the family pig. The knife was as dull as a
pig; the plow was as rough as a pig; the horses, when they capered
at a corner, were as wild as a pig; even Grant himself, while he
held the little chap firmly on his knee, received the doubtful
compliment of being as strong as a pig. He went through the form
of sharpening the knife on the leather lines of the harness, and
was pleased to discover that Wilson, with childish dexterity of
imagination, now pronounced it as sharp as a pig.
The boy did not return to the field in the afternoon, and Grant
spent the time in a strange admixture of happiness over the
pleasant companionship he had found in this little son of the
prairies and anticipation of his meeting with Zen that night. All
his reflection had failed to suggest the subject so interesting to
her as to bring forth her unconventional note, but it was enough
for him that his presence was desired. As to the future--he would
deal with that when he came to it. As evening approached the
horses began their usual procedure of turning their heads homeward
at the end of each furrow. Beginning about five o'clock, they had
a habit of assuming that each furrow was obviously the last one for
the day, and when the firm hand on the lines brought them sharply
back to position they trudged on with an apologetic air which
seemed to say that of course they were quite willing to work
another hour or two but they supposed their master would want to be
on his way home. Today, however, he surprised them, and the first
time they turned their heads he unhitched, and, throwing himself
lightly across Prince's ample back, drove them to their stables.
Grant prepared his supper of bacon and eggs and fried potatoes,
bread and jam and black tea, and ate it from the kitchen table as
was his habit except on state occasions. Sometimes a touch of the
absurdity of his behavior would tickle his imagination--he, who
might dine in the midst of wealth and splendor, with soft lights
beating down upon him, soft music swelling through arching
corridors, soft-handed waiters moving about on deep, silent
carpetings, perhaps round white shoulders across the table and the
faint smell of delicate perfumes--that he should prefer to eat from
the white oilcloth of his kitchen table was a riddle far beyond any
ordinary intellect. And yet he was happy in this life; happy in
his escape from the tragic routine of being decently civilized;
happier, he knew, than he ever could be among all the artificial
pleasures that wealth could buy him. Sometimes, as a concession to
this absurdity, he would set his table in the dining-room with his
best dishes, and eat his silent meal very grandly, until the
ridiculousness of it all would overcome him and he would jump up
with a boyish whoop and sweep everything into the kitchen.
But to-night he had no time for make-belief. Supper ended, he put
a basin of water on the stove and went out to give his horses their
evening attention, after which he had a wash and a careful shave
and dressed himself in a light grey suit appropriate to an autumn
evening. And then he noticed that he had just time to walk to
Transley's house before eight o'clock.
Zen received him at the door; the maid had gone to a neighbor's,
she said, and Wilson was in bed. It was still bright outside, but
the sheltered living-room, to which she showed him, was wrapped in
a soft twilight.
"Shall we have a lamp, or the fireplace?" she asked, then
inferentially answered by saying that a cool wind was blowing down
from the mountains. "I had the maid build the fire," she
continued, and he could see the outline of her form bending over
the grate. She struck a match; its glow lit up her cheeks and
hair; in a moment the dry wood was crackling and ribbons of blue
smoke were curling into the chimney.
"I have been so anxious to see you--again," she said, drawing a
chair not far from his. "A chance remark of yours last night
brought to memory many things--things I have been trying to
forget." Then, abruptly, "Did you ever kill a man?"
"You know I was in the war," he returned, evading her question.
"Yes, and you do not care to dwell on that phase of it. I should
not have asked you, but you will be the better able to understand.
For years I have lived under the cloud of having killed a man."
"Yes. The day of the fire--you remember?"
Grant had started from his chair. "I can't believe it!" he
exclaimed. "There must have been justification!"
"YOU had justification at the Front, but it doesn't make the memory
pleasant. I had justification, but it has haunted me night and
day. And then, last night you said he was still alive, and my soul
seemed to rise up again and say, 'I am free!'"
"Yes. I thought I had killed him that day of the fire. It is
rather an unpleasant story, and you will excuse me repeating the
details, I know. He attacked me--we were both on horseback, in the
river--I suppose he was crazed with his wild deed, and less
responsible than usual. He dragged me from my horse and I fought
with him in the water, but he was much too strong. I had concluded
that to drown myself, and perhaps him, was the only way out, when I
saw a leather thong floating in the water from the saddle. By a
ruse I managed to flip it around his neck, and the next moment he
was at my mercy. I had no mercy then. I understand how it might
be possible to kill prisoners. I pulled it tight, tight--pulled
till I saw his face blacken and his eyes stand out. He went down,
but still I pulled. And then after a little I found myself on
"I suppose it was the excitement of the fire that carried me on
through the day, but at night--you remember?--there came a
reaction, and I couldn't keep awake. I suddenly seemed to feel
that I was safe, and I could sleep."
Grant had resumed his seat. He was deeply moved by this strange
confidence; he bent his eyes intently upon her face, now shining in
the ruddy light from the fire-place. Her frank reference to the
event that night seemed to create a new bond between them; he knew
now, if ever he had doubted it, that Zen Transley had treasured
that incident in her heart even as he had treasured it.
"I was so embarrassed after the--the accident, you know," she
continued. "I knew you must know I had been in the water. For
days and weeks I expected every hour to hear of the finding of the
body. I expected to hear the remark dropped casually by every new
visitor at the ranch, 'Drazk's body was found to-day in the river.
The Mounted Police are investigating.' But time went on and
nothing was heard of it. It would almost have been a relief to me
if it had been discovered. If I had reported the affair at once,
as I should have done, all would have been different, but having
kept my secret for a while I found it impossible to confess it
later. It was the first time I ever felt my self-reliance severely
shaken. . . . But what was his message, and why did you not tell
"Because I attached no value to it; because I was, perhaps, a
little ashamed of it. I learned something of his weaknesses at the
Front. According to Drazk's statement of it he won the war, and
could as easily win another, if occasion presented itself, so when
he said, 'If ever you see Y.D.'s daughter tell her I'm well; she'll
be glad to hear it,' I put it down to his usual boasting and
thought no more about it. I thought he was trying to impress me
with the idea that you were interested in him, which was a very
absurd supposition, as I saw it."
"Well, now you know," she said, with a little laugh. "I'm glad
it's off my mind."
"Of course your husband knows?"
"No. That made it harder. I never told Frank."
She arose and walked to the fire-place, pretending to stir the
logs. When she had seated herself again she continued.
"It has not been easy for me to tell all things to Frank. Don't
misunderstand me; he has been a model husband, according to my
"According to your standards?"
"According to my standards--when I married him. If standards were
permanent I suppose happy matings would be less unusual. A young
couple must have something in common in order to respond at all to
each other's attractions, but as they grow older they set up
different standards, and they drift apart."
She paused, and Grant sat in silence, watching the glow of the
firelight upon her cheek.
"Why don't you smoke?" she exclaimed, suddenly springing up. "Let
me find you some of Frank's cigars."
Grant protested that he smoked too much. She produced a box of
cigars and extended them to him. Then she held a match while he
got his light.
"Your standards have changed?" said Grant, taking up the thread
when she had sat down again.
"They have. They have changed more than Frank's, which makes me
feel rather at fault in the matter. How could he know that I would
change my ideal of what a husband should be?"
"Why shouldn't he know? That is the course of development.
Without changing ideals there would be stagnation."
"Perhaps," she returned, and he thought he caught a note of
weariness in her voice. "But I don't blame Frank--now. I rather
blame him then. He swept me off my feet; stampeded me. My parents
helped him, and I was only half disposed to resist. You see, I had
this other matter on my mind, and for the first time in my life I
felt the need of protection. Besides, I took a matter-of-fact view
of marriage. I thought that sentiment--love, if you like--was a
thing of books, an invention of poets and fiction writers.
Practical people would be practical in their marriages, as in their
other undertakings. To marry Frank seemed a very practical course.
My father assured me that Frank had in him qualities of large
success. He would make money; he would be a prominent man in
circles of those who do things. These predictions he has
fulfilled. Frank has been all I expected--then."
"But you have changed your opinion of marriage--of the essentials
"Do YOU need to ask that? I was beginning to see the light--
beginning to know myself--even before I married him, but I didn't
stop to analyze. I plunged ahead, as I have always done, trusting
not to get into any position from which I could not find a way out.
But there are some positions from which there is no way out."
Grant reflected that possibly his experience had been somewhat
like hers in that respect. He, too, had been following a path,
unconcerned about its end. . . . Possibly for him, too, there
would be no way out.
"Frank has been all I expected of him," she repeated, as though
anxious to do her husband justice. "He has made money. He spends
it generously. If I live here modestly, with but one maid, it is
because of a preference which I have developed for simplicity. I
might have a dozen if I asked it, and I think Frank is somewhat
surprised, and, it may be, disappointed, that I don't ask it.
Although not a man for display himself, he likes to see me make
display. It's a strange thing, isn't it, that a husband should
wish his wife to be admired by other men?"
"Some are successful in that," Grant remarked.
"Some are more successful than they intend to be."
"Frank, for instance?" he queried, pointedly.
"I have not sought any man's admiration," she went on, with her
astonishing frankness. "I am too independent for that. What do I
care for their admiration? But every woman wants love."
Grant had changed his position, and sat with his elbows upon his
knees, his chin resting upon his hands. "You know, Zen," he said,
using her Christian name deliberately, "the picture I drew that day
by the river? That is the picture I have carried in my mind ever
since--shall carry to the end. Perhaps it has led me to be
"Has brought me here to-night, for example."
"You had my invitation."
"True. But why develop another situation which, as you say, has no
"Do you want to go?"
"No, Zen, no! I want to stay--with you--always! But organized
society must respect its own conventions."
She arose and stood by his chair, letting her hand fall beside his
"You silly boy!" she said. "You didn't organize society, nor
subscribe to its conventions. Still, I suppose there must be a
code of some kind, and we shall respect it. You had your chance,
Denny, and you passed it up."
"Had my chance?"
"Yes. I refused you in words, I know, but actions speak louder--"
"But when you told me you were engaged what could I honorably do?"
"More--very much more--than you can do now. You could have shown
me my mistake. How much better to have learned it then, from you,
than later, by my own experience! You could have swept me off my
feet, just as Frank did. You did nothing. If I had sought
evidence to prove how impractical you are, as compared with my
super-practical husband, I would have found it in the way you
handled, or rather failed to handle, that situation."
"What would your super-practical husband do now if he were in my
position?" he said, drawing her hands into his.
"I don't know."
"You do! He says that any man worth his salt takes what he wants
in this world. Am I worth my salt?"
"There are different standards of value. . . . Goodness! how late
it is! You must go now, and don't come back before, let us say,
Whatever may have been Grant's philosophy about the unwisdom of
creating a situation which had no way out he found himself looking
forward impatiently to Wednesday evening. An hour or two at Zen's
fireside provided the social atmosphere which his bachelor life
lacked, and as Transley seemed unappreciative of his domestic
privileges, remaining in town unless his business brought him out
to the summer home, it seemed only a just arrangement that they
should be shared by one who valued them at their worth.
The Wednesday evening conversation developed further the
understanding that was gradually evolving between them, but it
afforded no solution of the problem which confronted them. Zen
made no secret of the error she had made in the selection of her
husband, but had no suggestions to offer as to what should be done
about it. She seemed quite satisfied to enjoy Grant's conversation
and company, and let it go at that--an impossible situation, as the
young man assured himself. She dismissed him again at a quite
respectable hour with some reference to Saturday evening, which
Grant interpreted as an invitation to call again at that time.
When he entered Saturday night it was evident that she had been
expecting him. A cool wind was again blowing down from the
mountains, laden with the soft smell of melting snow, and the fire
in the grate was built ready for the match.
"I am my own maid to-night," she said, as she stooped to light it.
"Sarah usually goes to town Saturday evening. Now we shall see if
someone is in good humor."
The fire curled up pleasantly about the wood. "There!" she
exclaimed, clapping her hands. "All is well. You see how
economical I am; if we must spend on fires we save on light. I
love a wood fire; I suppose it is something which reaches back to
the original savage in all of us."
"To the days when our great ancestors roasted their victims while
they danced about the coals," said Grant, completing the picture.
"And yet they say that human nature doesn't change."
"Does it? I think our methods change with our environments, but
that is all. Wasn't it you who propounded a theory about an age
when men took what they wanted by force giving way to an age in
which they took what they wanted by subtlety? Now, I believe, you
want society to restrain the man of clever wits just as it has
learned to restrain the man of big biceps. And when that is done
will not man discover some other means of taking what he wants?"
She had seated herself beside him on a divanette and the joy of her
nearness fired Grant with a very happy intoxication. It recalled
that night on the hillside when, as she had since said, she felt
safe in his protection.
"I am really very interested," she continued. "I followed the
argument at the table on Sunday with as much concern as if it had
been my pet hobby, not yours, that was under discussion. If I said
little it was because I did not wish to appear too interested."
Her amazing frankness brought Grant, figuratively, to his feet at
every turn. She seemed to have no desire to conceal her interest
in him, her attachment for him. Hers was such candor as might well
be born of the vast hillsides, the great valleys, the brooding
silences of her girlhood. Yet it seemed obvious that she must be
less candid with Transley. . . .
"I am glad you were interested," he answered. "I was afraid I was
rather boring the company, but it was MY scheme and I had to stand
up for it. I fear I made few converts."
"You were dealing with practical men," she returned, "and practical
men are never converted to a new idea. That is one of the things I
have learned in my years of married life, Dennison. Practical men
find many ways of turning an old idea to advantage, but they never
evolve new ones. New ideas come from dreamers--theoretical fellows
"The dreamer is always a lap ahead of the rest of civilization, and
the funny thing is that the rest always thinks itself much more
sane than the dreamer, out there blazing the way."
"That's not remarkable," she replied. "That's logical. The
dreamer blazes the way--proves the possibilities of his dream--and
the practical man follows it up and makes money out of it. To a
practical man there is nothing more practical than making money."
"Did I convert you?" he pursued.
"I was not in need of conversion. I have been a follower of the
new faith--an imperfect and limping follower, it is true--ever
since you first announced it."
"I believe you are laughing at me."
"Certainly not! I have been brought up in an environment where
there is no standard higher than the money standard. Not that my
father or husband are dishonest; they are rigidly honest according
to their ideas of honesty. But to say that a man must give actual
service for every dollar he gets or it isn't his--that is a
conception of honesty so far beyond them as to be an absurdity.
But I have wanted to ask you how you are going to enforce this new
"Idealism is not enforced. We aspire to it; we may not attain to
it. Christianity itself is idealism--the idealism of unselfishness.
That ideal has never been attained by any considerable number of
people, and yet it has drawn all humanity on to somewhat higher
levels as surely as the moon draws the tide. Superficial persons in
these days are drawing pictures of the failure of Christianity,
which has failed in part; but they could find a much more depressing
subject by painting a world from which all Christian idealism had
"But surely you have some plan for putting your theories to the
test--some plan which will force those to whom idealism appeals
in vain. We do not trust to a man's idealism to keep him from
stealing; we put him in jail."
"All that will come in time, but the question for the seeker after
truth is not 'Will it work?' but 'Is it true?' I fancy I can see
the practical men of Moses' time leaning over his shoulder as he
inscribed the Ten Commandments and remarking 'No use of putting
that down, Moses; you can never enforce it.' But Moses put it down
and left the enforcement to natural law and the growing intelligence
of the generations which have followed him. We are too much
disposed to think it possible to evade a law; to violate it, and
escape punishment; but if a law is true, punishment follows
violation as implacably as the stars follow their courses. And if
society has failed to recognize the law that service, and service
only, should be able to command service in return, society must
suffer the penalty. We have only to look about us to see that
society is paying in full for its violations.
"Yes, I have plans, and I think they would work, but the first
thing is the ideal--the new moral sense--that value must not be
accepted without giving equal value in return. Society, of course,
will have to set up the standards of value. That is a matter of
detail--a matter for the practical men who come in the wake of the
idealist. But of this I am certain--and I hark back to my old
theme--that just as society has found a means of preventing the man
who is physically superior from taking wealth without giving
service in return, so must society find a means to prevent men who
are mentally superior from taking wealth without giving service in
return. The superior person, mark you, will still have an
advantage, in that his superiority will enable him to EARN more; we
shall merely stop him taking what he does not earn. That must
come. I think it will come soon. It is the next step in the
social evolution of the race."
She had drunk in his argument as one who hangs on every word, and
her wrapt face turned toward his seemed to glow and thrill him in
return with a sense of their spiritual oneness. She did not need
to tell him that Transley never talked to her like this. Transley
loved her, if he loved her at all, for the glory she reflected upon
him; he was proud of her beauty, of her daring, of her physical
charm and self-reliance. The deeper side of her mental life was to
Transley a field unexplored; a field of the very existence of which
he was probably unaware. Grant looked into her eyes, now close and
responsive, and found within their depths something which sent him
to his feet.
"Zen!" he exclaimed. "The mystery of life is too much for me.
Surely there must be an answer somewhere! Surely the puzzle has a
system to it--a key which may some day be found! Or can it be just
chaos--just blind, driveling, senseless chaos? In our own lives,
why should we be stranded, helpless, wrecked, with the happiness
which might have been ours hung just beyond our reach? Is there no
answer to this?"
"I suppose we disobeyed the law, back in those old days. We heard
it clearly enough, and we disobeyed. I allowed myself to be guided
by motives which were not the highest; you seemed to lack the
enterprise which would have won you its own reward. And as you
have said, those who violate the law must suffer for it. I have
She drew up her chin; he could see the firm muscles set beneath
the pink bloom of her flesh. . . . He had not thought of Zen
suffering; all his thought of her had been very grateful to his
vanity, but he had not thought of her suffering. He extended his
hands and took hers within them.
"I have sometimes wondered," he said, "why there is no second
chance; why one cannot wipe the slate clear of everything that has
been and start anew. What a world this might be!"
"Would it be any better? Or would we go on making our mistakes
over again? That seems to be the only way we learn."
"But a second chance; the idea seems so fair, so plausible.
Suppose you are shooting on the ranges, for instance; you are
allowed a shot or two to find your nerve, to get your distance, to
settle yourself to the business in hand. But in this business of
life you fire, and if some distraction, some momentary influence or
folly sends your aim wild, the shot is gone and you are left with
all the years that follow to think about it. You can do nothing
but think about it--the most profitless of all occupations."
"For you there is a second chance," she reminded him. "You must
have thought of that."
"No--no second chance."
She drew herself up slightly and away from him. "I have been very
frank with you, Dennison," she said. "Suppose you try being frank
In her eyes was still the fire of Zen of the Y.D., a woman
unconquered and unconquerable. She gave the impression that she
accepted the buffetings of life, but no one forced them upon her.
She had erred; she would suffer. That was fair; she accepted that.
But as Grant gazed on her face, tilted still in some of its old-
time recklessness and defiance, he knew that the day would come
when she would say that her cup was full, and, throwing it to the
winds, would start life over, if there can be such a thing as
starting life over. And something in her manner told him that day
was very, very near.
"All right," he said, "I will be frank. Fate HAS brought within my
orbit a second chance, or what would have been a second chance had
my heart not been so full of you. She was a girl well worth
thinking about. When an employee introduces herself to you with a
declaration of independence you may know that you have met with
someone out of the ordinary. I am not speaking of these days of
labor scarcity; it takes no great moral quality to be independent
when you have the whip-hand. But in the days before the war, with
two applicants for every position, a girl who valued her freedom of
spirit more than her job--more than even a very good job--was a
girl to think about."
"And you thought about her?"
"I did. I was sick of the cringing and fawning of which my wealth
made me the object; I loathed the deference paid me, because I knew
it was paid, not to me, but to my money--I was homesick to hear
someone tell me to go to hell. I wanted to brush up against that
spirit which says it is as good as anybody else--against the
manliness which stands its ground and hits back. I found that
spirit in Phyllis Bruce."
"Phyllis Bruce--rather a nice name. But are the men and women of
the East so--so servile as you suggest?"
"No! That is where I was mistaken. Generations of environment had
merely trained them into docility of habit. Underneath they are
red-blooded through and through. The war showed us that. Zen--the
proudest moment of my life--except one--was when a kid in the
office who couldn't come into my room without trembling jumped up
and said 'We WILL win!'--and called me Grant! Think of that! Poor
chap. . . . What was I saying? Oh, yes; Phyllis. I grew to like
her--very much--but I couldn't marry her. You know why."
Zen was looking into the fire with unseeing eyes. "I am not sure
that I know why," she said at length. "You couldn't marry me. It
was your second chance. You should have taken it."
"Would that be playing the game fairly--with her?"
She rested her fingers lightly on the back of his hand, extending
them gently down until they fell between his own.
"Denny, you big, big boy!" she murmured. "Do you suppose every man
marries his first choice?"
"It has always seemed to me that a second choice is a makeshift.
It doesn't seem quite square--"
"No. I fancy some second choices are really first choices. Wisdom
comes with experience, you know."
"Not always. At any rate I couldn't marry her while my heart was
"I suppose not," she answered, and again he noted a touch of
weariness in her voice. "I know something of what divided
affection--if one can even say it is divided--means. Denny, I will
make a confession. I knew you would come back; I always was sure
you would come back. 'Then,' I said to myself, 'I will see this
man Grant as he is, and the reality will clear my brain of all this
idealism which I have woven about him.' Perhaps you know what I
mean. We sometimes meet people who impress us greatly at the time,
but a second meeting, perhaps years later, has a very different
effect. It sweeps all the idealism away, and we wonder what it was
that could have charmed us so. Well--I hoped--I really hoped for
some experience like that with you. If only I could meet you again
and find that, after all, you were just like other men; self-
centred, arrogant, kind, perhaps, but quite superior--if I could
only find THAT to be true then the mirage in which I have lived for
all these years would be swept away and my old philosophy that
after all it doesn't matter much whom one marries so long as he is
respectable and gives her a good living would be vindicated. And
so I have encouraged you to come here; I have been most
unconventional, I know, but I was always that--I have cultivated
your acquaintance, and, Denny, I am SO disappointed!"
"Disappointed? Then the mirage HAS cleared away?"
"On the contrary, it grows more distorted every day. I see you
towering above all your fellow humans; reaching up into a heaven so
far above them that they don't even know of its existence. I see
you as really The Man-On-the-Hill, with a vision which lays all
this selfish, commonplace world at your feet. The idealism which I
thought must fade away is justified--heightened--by the reality."
She had turned her face to him, and Grant, little as he understood
the ways of women, knew that she had made her great confession.
For a moment he held himself in check. . . . then from somewhere in
his subconsciousness came ringing the phrase, "Every man worth his
salt. . . . takes what he wants." That was Transley's morality;
Transley, the Usurper, who had bullied himself into possession of
this heart which he had never won and could never hold; Transley,
the fool, frittering his days and nights with money! He seized her
in his arms, crushing down her weak resistance; he drew her to him
until, as in that day by a foothill river somewhere in the sunny
past, her lips met his and returned their caress. He cared now for
nothing--nothing in the whole world but this quivering womanhood
within his arms. . . .
"You must go," she whispered at length. "It is late, and Frank's
habits are somewhat erratic."
He held her at arm's length, his hands upon her shoulders. "Do you
suppose that fear--of anything--can make me surrender you now?"
"Not fear, perhaps--I know it could not be fear--but good sense may
do it. It was not fear that made me send you home early from your
previous calls. It was discretion."
"Oh!" he said, a new light dawning, and he marvelled again at her
"But I must tell you," she resumed, "Frank leaves on a business
trip to-morrow night. He will be gone for some time, and I shall
motor into town to see him off. I am wondering about Wilson," she
hurried on, as though not daring to weigh her words; "Sarah will be
away--I am letting her have a little holiday--and I can't take
Wilson into town with me because it will be so late." Then, with a
burst of confession she spoke more deliberately. "That isn't
exactly the reason, Dennison; Frank doesn't know I have let Sarah
go, and I--I can't explain."
Her face shone pink and warm in the glow of the firelight, and as
the significance of her words sank in upon him Grant marvelled at
that wizardry of the gods which could bring such homage to the foot
of man. A tenderness such as he had never known suffused him; her
very presence was holy.
"Bring the boy over and let him spend the night with me. We are
great chums and we shall get along splendidly."
Grant spent his Sunday forenoon in an exhaustive house-cleaning
campaign. Bachelor life on the farm is not conducive to domestic
delicacy, and although Grant had never abandoned the fundamentals
he had allowed his interpretation of essential cleanliness to
become somewhat liberal. The result was that the day of rest
usually confronted him with a considerable array of unwashed pots
and pans and other culinary utensils. To-day, while the tawny
autumn hills seemed to fairly heave and sigh with contentment under
a splendor of opalescent sunshine, he scoured the contents of his
kitchen until they shone; washed the floor; shook the rugs from the
living-room and swept the corners, even behind the gramophone;
cleared the ashes from the hearth and generally set his house in
order, for was not she to call upon him that evening on her way to
town, and was not little Wilson--he of the high adventures with
teddy-bear and knife and pig--to spend the night with him?
When he was able to view his handiwork with a feeling that even
feminine eyes would find nothing to offend, Grant did an unwonted
thing. He unlocked the whim-room and opened the windows that the
fresh air might play through the silent chamber. To the west the
mountains looked down in sombre placidity as they had looked down
every bright autumn morning since the dawn of time, their shoulders
bathed in purple mist and their snow-crowned summits shining in the
sun. For a long time Grant stood drinking in the scene; the
fertile valley lying with its square farms like a checker-board of
the gods, with its round little lakes beating back the white
sunshine like coins from the currency of the Creator; the ruddy
copper-colored patches of ripe wheat, and drowsy herds motionless
upon the receding hills; the blue-green ribbon of river with its
yellow fringes of cottonwood and bluffs of forbidding spruce, and
behind and over all the silent, majestic mountains. It was a sight
to make the soul of man rise up and say, "I know I stand on the
heights of the Eternal!" Then as his eyes followed the course of
the river Grant picked out a column of thin blue smoke, and knew
that Zen was cooking her Sunday dinner.
The thought turned him to his dusting of the whim-room, and
afterwards to his own kitchen. When he had lunched and dressed he
took a stroll over the hills, thinking a great deal, but finding no
answer. On his return he descried the familiar figure of Linder in
a semi-recumbent position on the porch, and Linder's well-worn car
in the yard.
"How goes it, Linder?" he said, cheerily, as he came up. "Is the
Big Idea going to fructify?"
"The Big Idea seems to be all right. You planned it well."
"Thanks. But is it going to be self-supporting--I mean in the
matter of motive power. Would it run if you and I and Murdoch were
"Everything must have a head."
"Democracy must find its own head--must grow it out of the materials
supplied. If it doesn't do that it's a failure, and the Big Idea
will end in being the Big Fizzle. That's why I'm leaving it so
severely alone--I want to see which way it's headed."
"I could suggest another reason," said Linder, pointedly.
"Another reason for what?"
"For your leaving it so severely alone."
"What are you driving at?" demanded Grant, somewhat petulantly.
"You are in a taciturn mood to-day, Linder."
"Perhaps I am, Grant, and if so it comes from wondering how a man
with as much brains as you have can be such a damned fool upon
"Drop the riddles, Linder. Let me have it in the face."
"It's just like this, Grant, old boy," said Linder, getting up and
putting his hand on his friend's shoulder, "I feel that I still
have an interest in the chap who saved all of me except what this
empty sleeve stands for, and it's that interest which makes me
speak about something which you may say is none of my business.
I was out here Monday night to see you, and you were not at home.
I came out again Wednesday, and you were not at home. I came last
night and you were not at home, and had not come back at midnight.
Your horses were in the barn; you were not far away."
"Why didn't you telephone me?"
"If I hadn't cared more for you than I do for my job and the Big
Idea thrown in I could have settled it that way. But, Grant, I
"I believe you. But why this sudden worry over me? I was merely
spending the evening at a neighbor's."
"Yes--at Transley's. Transley was in town, and Mrs. Transley is--
not responsible--where you are concerned."
"I saw it all that night at dinner there. Some things are plain to
everyone--except those most involved. Now it's not my job to say
to you what's right and wrong, but the way it looks to me is this:
what's the use of setting up a new code of morality about money
which concerns, after all, only some of us, if you're going to
knock down those things which concern all of us?"
Grant regarded his foreman for some time without answering. "I
appreciate your frankness, Linder," he said at length. "Your
friendship, which I can never question, gives you that privilege.
Man to man, I'm going to be equally frank with you. To begin with,
I suppose you will admit that Y.D.'s daughter is a strong
character, a woman quite capable of directing her own affairs?"
"The stronger the engine the bigger the smash if there's a wreck."
"It's not a case of wrecking; it's a case of trying to save
something out of the wreck. Convention, Linder, is a torture-
monger; it binds men and women to the stake of propriety and bids
them smile while it snuffs out all the soul that's in them. We
have pitted ourselves against convention in economic affairs; shall
"No! It was pure unselfishness which led you into the Big Idea.
That isn't what's leading you now."
"Well, let me put it another way. Transley is a clever man of
affairs. He knows how to accomplish his ends. He applied the
methods--somewhat modified for the occasion--of a landshark in
winning his wife. He makes a great appearance of unselfishness,
but in reality he is selfish to the core. He lavishes money on her
to satisfy his own vanity, but as for her finer nature, the real
Zen, her soul if you like--he doesn't even know she has one. He
obtained possession by false pretences. Which is the more moral
thing--to leave him in possession, or to throw him out? Didn't you
yourself hear him say that men who are worth their salt take what
"Since when did you let him set YOUR standards?"
"That's hardly fair."
"I think it is. I think, too, that you are arguing against your
own convictions. Well, I've had my say. I deliberately came out
to-day without Murdoch so that I might have it. You would be quite
justified in firing me for what I've done. But now I'm through,
and no matter what may happen, remember, Linder will never have
"That's like you, old chap. We'll drop it at that, but I must
explain that Zen is going to town to-night to meet Transley, and is
leaving the boy with me. It is an event in my young life, and I
have house-cleaned for it appropriately. Come inside and admire my
Linder admired as he was directed, and then the two men fell into a
discussion of business matters. Eventually Grant cooked supper,
and just as they had finished Mrs. Transley drove up in her motor.
"Here we are!" she cried, cheerily. "Glad to see you, Mr. Linder.
Wilson has his teddy-bear and his knife and his pyjamas, and is a
little put out, I think, that I wouldn't let him bring the pig."
"I shall try and make up the deficiency," said Grant, smiling
broadly, as the boy climbed to his shoulder. "Won't you come in?
Linder, among his other accomplishments learned in France, is an
"Thank you, no; I must get along. I shall call early in the
morning, so that you will not be delayed on Wilson's account."
"No need of that; he can ride to the field with me on Prince. He
is a great help with the plowing."
"I'm sure." She stepped up to Grant and drew the boy's face down
to hers. "Good-bye, dear; be a good boy," she whispered, and
Wilson waved kisses to her as the motor sped down the road.
Linder took his departure soon after, and Grant was surprised to
find himself almost embarrassed in the presence of his little
guest. The embarrassment, however, was all on his side. Wilson
was greatly interested in the strange things in the house, and
investigated them with the romantic thoroughness of his years.
Grant placed a collection of war trophies that had no more fight in
them at the child's disposal, and he played about until it was time
to go to bed.
Where to start on the bedtime preparations was a puzzle, but Wilson
himself came to Grant's aid with explicit instructions about
buttons and pins. Grant fervently hoped the boy would be able to
reverse the process in the morning, otherwise--
Suddenly, with a little dexterous movement, the child divested
himself of all his clothing, and rushed into a far corner.
"You have to catch me now," he shouted in high glee. "One, two--"
Evidently it was a game, and Grant entered into the spirit of it,
finally running Wilson to earth on the farthest corner of the
kitchen table. To adjust the pyjamas was, as Grant confessed, a
bigger job than harnessing a four-horse team, but at length it was
"You must hear my prayer, Uncle Man-on-the-Hill," said the boy.
"You have to sit down in a chair."
Grant sat down and with a strange mixture of emotions drew the
little chap between his knees as he listened to the long-forgotten
prattle. He felt his fingers running through Wilson's hair as
other fingers, now long, long turned to dust, had once run through
his. . . .
At the third line the boy stopped. "You have to tell me now," he
"But I can't, Willie; I have forgotten."
"Huh, you don't know much," the child commented, and glibly quoted
the remaining lines. "And God bless Daddy and Mamma and teddy-bear
and Uncle Man-on-the-Hill and the pig. Amen," he concluded,
accompanying the last word with a jump which landed him fairly in
Grant's lap. His little arms went up about his friend's neck, and
his little soft cheek rested against a tanned and weather-beaten
one. Slowly Grant's arms closed about the warm, lithe body and
pressed it to his in a new passion, strange and holy. Then he led
him to the whim-room, turned down the white sheets in which no form
had ever lain and placed the boy between them, snuggled his teddy
down by his side and set his knife properly in view upon the dresser.
And then he leaned down again and kissed the little face, and
whispered, "Good night, little boy; God keep you safe to-night, and
always." And suddenly Grant realized that he had been praying. . . .
He withdrew softly, and only partly closed the door; then he chose
a seat where he could see the little figure lying peacefully on the
white bed. The last shafts of the setting sun were falling in
amber wedges across the room. He picked up a book, thinking to
read, but he could not keep his attention on the page; he found his
mind wandering back into the long-forgotten chambers of its
beginning, conjuring up from the faint recollections of infancy
visions of the mother he had hardly known. . . . After a while he
tip-toed to the whim-room door and found that Wilson, with his arms
firmly clasped about his teddy-bear, was deep in the sleep of
"The dear little chap," he murmured. "I must watch by him to-night.
It would be unspeakable if anything should happen him while he
is under my care."
He felt a sense of warmth, almost a smothering sensation, and
raised his hand to his forehead. It came down covered with
"It's amazingly close," he said, and walked to one of the French
windows opening to the west. The sun had gone down, and a brooding
darkness lay over all the valley, but far up in the sky he could
trace the outline of a cloud. Above, the stars shone with an
unwonted brightness, but below all was a bank of blue-black
darkness. The air was intensely still; in the silence he could
hear the wash of the river. Grant reflected that never before had
he heard the wash of the river at that distance.
"Looks like a storm," he commented, casually, and suddenly felt
something tighten about his heart. The storms of the foothill
country, which occasionally sweep out of the mountains and down the
valleys on the shortest notice, had no terror for him; he had sat
on horseback under an oilskin slicker through the worst of them;
but to-night! Even as he watched, the distant glare of lightning
threw the heaving proportions of the thundercloud into sharp
He turned to his chair, but found himself pacing the living-room
with an altogether inexplicable nervousness. He had held the line
many a bad night at the Front while Death spat out of the darkness
on every hand; he had smoked in the faces of his men to cover his
own fear and to shame them out of theirs; he had run the whole
gamut of the emotion of the trenches, but tonight something more
awesome than any engine of man was gathering its forces in the deep
valleys. He shook himself to throw off the morbidness that was
settling upon him; he laughed, and the echo came back haunting from
the silent corners of the house. Then he lit a lamp and set it,
burning low, in the whim-room, and noted that the boy slept on, all
"Damn Linder, anyway!" he exclaimed presently. "I believe he shook
me up more than I realized. He charged me with insincerity; me,
who have always made sincerity my special virtue. . . . Well,
there may be something in it."
A faint, indistinct growling, as of the grinding of mighty rocks,
came down from the distances.
"The storm will be nothing," he assured himself. "A gust of wind;
a spatter of rain; perhaps a dash of hail; then, of a sudden, a sky
so calm and peaceful one would wonder how it ever could have been
disturbed." Even as he spoke the house shivered in every timber as
the gale struck it and went whining by.
He rushed to the whim-room, but found the boy still sleeping
soundly. "I must stay up," he reasoned with himself; "I must be on
hand in case he should be frightened."
Suddenly it occurred to Grant that, quite apart from his love for
Wilson, if anything should happen the child in his house a very
difficult situation would be created. Transley would demand
explanations--explanations which would be hard to make. Why was
Wilson there at all? Why was he not at home with Sarah? Sarah
away from home! Why had Zen kept that a secret? . . . How long
had this thing been going on, anyway? Grant feared neither
Transley nor any other man, and yet there was something akin to
fear in his heart as he thought of these possibilities. He would
be held accountable--doubly accountable--if anything happened the
child. Even though it were something quite beyond his control;
lightning, for example--
The gale subsided as quickly as it had come, and the sudden silence
which followed was even more awesome. It lasted only for a moment;
a flash of lightning lit up every corner of the house, bursting
like white fire from every wall and ceiling. Grant rushed to the
whim-room and was standing over the child when the crash of thunder
came upon them. The boy stirred gently, smiled, and settled back
to his sleep.
Grant drew the blinds in the whim-room, and went out to draw them
in the living-room, but the sight across the valley was of a
majesty so terrific that it held him fascinated. The play of the
lightning was incessant, and with every flash the little lakes shot
back their white reflection, and distant farm window-panes seemed
heliographing to each other through the night. As yet there was no
rain, but a dense wall of cloud pressed down from the west, and the
farther hills were hidden even in the brightest flashes.
Turning from the windows, Grant left the blinds open. "Only
cowardice would close them," he muttered to himself, "and surely,
in addition to the other qualities Linder has attributed to me, I
am not a coward. If it were not for Willie I could stand and enjoy
Presently rain began to fall; a few scattered drops at first, then
thicker, harder, until the roof and windows rattled and shook with
their force. The wind, which had gone down so suddenly, sprang up
again, buffeting the house as it rushed by with the storm. Grant
stood in the whim-room, in the dim light of the lamp turned low,
and watched the steady breathing of his little guest with as much
anxiety as if some dread disease threatened him. For the first
time in his life there came into Grant's consciousness some sense
of the price which parents pay in the rearing of little children.
He thought of all the hours of sickness, of all the childish hurts
and dangers, and suddenly he found himself thinking of his father
with a tenderness which was strange and new to him. Doubtless
under even that stern veneer of business interest had beat a heart
which, many a time, had tightened in the grip of fear for young
As the night wore on the storm, instead of spending itself quickly
as Grant had expected, continued unabated, but his nervous tension
gradually relaxed, and when at length Wilson was awakened by an
exceptionally loud clap of thunder he took the boy in his arms and
soothed his little fears as a mother might have done. They sat for
a long while in a big chair in the living-room, and exchanged such
confidences as a man may with a child of five. After the lad had
dropped back into sleep Grant still sat with him in his arms,
thinking. . . .
And what he thought was this: He was a long while framing the
exact thought; he tried to beat it back in a dozen ways, but it
circled around him, gradually closed in upon him and forced its
acceptance. "Linder called me a fool, and he was right. He might
have called me a coward, and again he would have been right.
Linder was right."
Some way it seemed easy to reach that conclusion while this little
sleeping form lay in his arms. Perhaps it had quickened into life
that ennobling spirit of parenthood which is all sacrifice and love
and self-renunciation. The ends which seemed so all-desirable a
few hours ago now seemed sordid and mean and unimportant. Reaching
out for some means of self-justification Grant turned to the Big
Idea; that was his; that was big and generous and noble. But after
all, was it his? The idea had come in upon him from some outside
source--as perhaps all ideas do; struck him like a bullet; swept
him along. He was merely the agency employed in putting it into
effect. It had cost him nothing. He was doing that for society.
Now was the time to do something that would cost; to lay his hand
upon the prize and then relinquish it--for the sake of Wilson
"And by God I'll do it!" he exclaimed, springing to his feet. He
carried the child back to his bed, and then turned again to watch
the storm through the windows. It seemed to be subsiding; the
lightning, although still almost continuous, was not so near. The
air was cooling off and the rain was falling more steadily, without
the gusts and splatters which marked the storm in its early stages.
And as he looked out over the black valley, lighted again and again
by the glare of heaven's artillery, Grant became conscious of a
deep, mysterious sense of peace. It was as though his soul, like
the elements about him, caught in a paroxysm of elemental passion,
had been swept clean and pure in the fire of its own upheaval.
"What little incidents turn our lives!" he thought. "That boy; in
some strange way he has been the means of bringing me to see things
as they are--which not even Linder could do. The mind has to be
fertilized for the thought, or it can't think it. He brought the
necessary influence to bear. It was like the night at Murdoch's
house, the night when the Big Idea was born. Surely I owe that to
Murdoch, and his wife, and Phyllis Bruce."
The name of Phyllis Bruce came to him with almost a shock. He had
been so occupied with his farm and with Zen that he had thought but
little of her of late. As he turned the matter over in his mind
now he felt that he had used Phyllis rather shabbily. He recalled
having told Murdoch to send for her, but that was purely a business
transaction. Yet he felt that he had never entirely forgotten her,
and he was surprised to find how tenderly the memory of her welled
up within him. Zen's vision had been clearer than his; she had
recognized in Phyllis Bruce a party to his life's drama. "The
second choice may be really the first," she had said.
Grant lit a cigar and sat down to smoke and think. The matter of
Phyllis needed prompt settlement. It afforded a means to burn his
bridges behind him, and Grant felt that it would be just as well to
cut off all possibility of retreat. Fortunately the situation was
one that could be explained--to Phyllis. He had come out West
again to be sure of himself; he was sure now; would she be his
wife? He had never thought that line out to a conclusion before,
but now it proved a subject very delightful to contemplate.
He had told himself, back in those days in the East, that it would
not be fair to marry Phyllis Bruce while his heart was another's.
He had believed that then; now he knew the real reason was that he
had allowed himself to hope, against all reason, that Zen Transley
might yet be his. He had harbored an unworthy desire, and called
it a virtue. Well--the die was cast. He had definitely given Zen
up. He would tell Phyllis everything. . . . That is, everything
she needed to know.
It would be best to settle it at once--the sooner the better. He
went to his desk and took out a telegraph blank. He addressed it
to Phyllis, pondered a minute in a great hush in the storm, and
"I am sure now. May I come? Dennison."
This done he turned to the telephone, hurrying as one who fears for
the duration of his good resolutions. It was a chance if the line
was not out of business, but he lifted the receiver and listened to
the thump of his heart as he waited.
Presently came a voice as calm and still as though it spoke from
another world, "Number?"
He gave the number of Linder's rooms in town; it was likely Linder
had remained in town, but it was a question whether the telephone
bell would waken him. He had recollections of Linder as a sound
sleeper. But even as this possibility entered his mind he heard
Linder's phlegmatic voice in his ear.
"Oh, Linder! I'm so glad I got you. Rush this message to Phyllis
Bruce. . . . Linder? . . . Linder!"
There was no answer. Nothing but a hollow, empty sound on the
wire, as though it led merely into the universe in general. He
tried to call the operator, but without success. The wire was
He turned from it with a sense of acute impatience. Was this an
omen of obstacles to bar him now from Phyllis Bruce? He had a wild
thought of saddling a horse and riding to town, but at that moment
the storm came down afresh. Besides, there was the boy.
Suddenly came a quick knock at the door; the handle turned, and a
drenched, hatless figure, with disheveled, wet hair, and white,
drawn face burst in upon him. It was Zen Transley.
"How is he--how is Wilson?" she demanded, breathlessly.
"Sound as a bell," he answered, alarmed by her manner. The self-
assured Zen was far from self-assurance now. "Come, see, he is
He led her into the whim-room and turned up the lamp. The lad was
sleeping soundly, his teddy-bear clasped in his arms, his little
pink and white face serene under the magic skies of slumberland.
Grant expected that Zen would throw herself upon the child in her
agitation, but she did not. She drew her fingers gently across his
brow, then, turning to Grant,
"Rather an unceremonious way to break into your house," she said,
with a little laugh. "I hope you will pardon me. . . . I was
uneasy about Wilson."
"But tell me--how--where did you come from?"
"From town. Let me stand in your kitchen, or somewhere."
"You're wet through. I can't offer you much change."
"Not as wet as when you first met me, Dennison," she said, with a
smile. "I have a good waterproof, but my hat blew off. It's
somewhere on the road. I couldn't see through the windshield, so I
put my head out, and away it went."
Then both laughed, and an atmosphere that had been tense began to
settle back to normal. Grant led her out to the living-room,
removed her coat, and started a fire.
"So you drove out over those roads?" he said, when the smoke began
to curl up around the logs. "You had your courage."
"It wasn't courage, Dennison; it was terror. Fear sometimes makes
one wonderfully brave. After I saw Frank off I went to the hotel.
I had a room on the west side, and instead of going to bed I sat by
the window looking out at the storm and at the wet streets. I
could see the flashes of lightning striking down as though they
were aimed at definite objects, and I began to think of Wilson, and
of you. You see, it was the first night I had ever spent away from
him, and I began to think. . . .
"After a while I could bear it no longer, and I rushed down and out
to the garage. There was just one young man on night duty, and I'm
sure he thought me crazy. When he couldn't dissuade me he wanted
to send a driver with me. You know I couldn't have that."
She was looking squarely at him, her face strangely calm and
emotionless. Grant nodded that he followed her reasoning.
"So here I am," she continued. "No doubt you think me silly, too.
You are not a mother."
"I think I understand," he answered, tenderly. "I think I do."
They sat in silence for some time, and presently they became aware
of a grey light displacing the yellow glow from the lamp and the
ruddy reflections of the fire. "It is morning," said Grant. "I
believe the storm has cleared."
He stood beside her chair and took her hand in his. "Let us watch
the dawn break on the mountains," he said, and together they moved
to the windows that overlooked the valley and the grim ranges
beyond. Already shafts of crimson light were firing the scattered
drift of clouds far overhead. . . .
"Dennison," she said at length, turning her face to his, "I hope
you will understand, but--I have thought it all over. I have not
hidden my heart from you. For the boy's sake, and for your sake,
and for the sake of 'a scrap of paper'--that was what the war was
over, wasn't it?--"
"I know," he whispered. "I know."
"Then you have been thinking, too? . . . I am so glad!" In the
growing light he could see the moisture in her bright eyes glisten,
and it seemed to him this wild, daring daughter of the hills had
never been lovelier than in this moment of confession and of high
"I am so glad," she repeated, "for your sake--and for my own. Now,
again, you are really the Man-on-the-Hill. We have been in the
valley of late. You can go ahead now with your high plans, with
your Big Idea. You will marry Miss Bruce, and forget."
"I shall remember with chastened memory, but I shall never forget,"
he said at length. "I shall never forget Zen of the Y.D. And you--
what will you do?"
"I have the boy. I did not realize how much I had until to-night.
Suddenly it came upon me that he was everything. You won't
understand, Dennison, but as we grow older our hearts wrap up
around our children with a love quite different from that which
expresses itself in marriage. This love gives--gives--gives,
lavishly, unselfishly, asking nothing in return."
"I think I understand," he said again. "I think I do."
They turned their eyes to the mountains, and as they looked the
first shafts of sunlight fell on the white peaks and set them
dazzling like mighty diamond-points against the blue bosom of the
West. Slowly the flood of light poured down their mighty sides and
melted the mauve shadows of the valley. Suddenly a ray of the
morning splendor shot through the little window in the eastern wall
of the living-room and fell fairly upon the woman's head, crowning
her like a halo of the Madonna.
"It is morning on the mountains--and on you!" Grant exclaimed.
"Zen, you are very, very beautiful." He raised her hand and
pressed her fingers to his lips.
As they stood watching the sunlight pour into the valley a sharp
knock sounded on the door. "Come," said Dennison, and the next
moment it swung open and Phyllis Bruce entered, followed immediately
by Linder. A question leapt into her eyes at the remarkable
situation which greeted them, and she paused in embarrassment.
"Phyllis!" Grant exclaimed. "You here!"
"It would seem that I was not expected."
"It is all very simple," Grant explained, with a laugh. "Little
Willie Transley was my guest overnight. On account of the storm
his mother became alarmed, and drove out from the city early this
morning for him. Mrs. Transley, let me introduce Miss Bruce--
Phyllis Bruce, of whom I have told you."
Zen's cordial handshake did more to reassure Phyllis than any
amount of explanations, and Linder's timely observation that he
knew Wilson was there and was wondering about him himself had
valuable corroborative effect.
"But now--YOUR explanations?" said Grant. "How comes it, Linder?"
"Simple enough, from our side. When I got back to town last night
I found Murdoch highly excited over a telegram from Miss Bruce that
she would arrive on the 3 a.m. train. He was determined to wait
up, but when the storm came on I persuaded him to go home, as I was
sure I could identify her. So I was lounging in my room waiting
for three o'clock when I got your telephone call. All I could
catch was the fact that you were mighty glad to get me, and had
some urgent message for Miss Bruce. Then the connection broke."
"I see. And you, of course, assured Miss Bruce that I was being
murdered, or meeting some such happy and effective ending, out here
in the wilderness."
"Not exactly that, but I reported what I could, and Miss Bruce
insisted upon coming out at once. The roads were dreadful, but we
had daylight. Also, we have a trophy."
Linder went out and returned in a moment with a sadly bedraggled
"My poor hat!" Zen exclaimed. "I lost it on the way."
"It is the best kind of evidence that you had but recently come
over the road," said Linder, significantly.
"I think no more evidence need be called," said Phyllis. "May I
lay off my things?"
"Certainly--certainly," Grant apologized. "But I must introduce
one more exhibit." He handed her the telegram he had written
during the night. "That is the message I wanted Linder to rush to
you," he said, and as she read it he saw the color deepen in her
"I'm going to get breakfast, Mr. Grant," Zen announced with a
sudden burst of energy. "Everybody keep out of the kitchen."
"Guess I'll feed up for you, this morning, old chap," said Linder,
beating a retreat to the stables.
And when Phyllis had laid aside her coat and hat and had
straightened her hair a little in the glass above the mantelpiece
she walked straight to Grant and put both her hands in his. "Let
me see this boy, Willie Transley," she said.
Grant led her into the whim-room, where the boy still slept
soundly, and drew aside the blinds that the morning light might
fall about him. Phyllis bent over the child. "Isn't he dear?" she
said, and stooped and kissed his lips.
Then she stood up and looked for what seemed to Grant a very long
time at the panorama of grandeur that stretched away to the
"When may I expect an answer, Phyllis?" he said at length. "You
know why my question has been so long delayed. I shall not attempt
to excuse myself. I have been very, very foolish. But to-day I am
very, very wise. May I also be very, very happy?"
He had taken her hands in his, and as she did not resist he drew
her gently to him.
"Little Willie christened me The Man-on-the-Hill," he whispered.
"I have tried to live on the hill, but I need you to keep me from
"What about your settlement plan? I thought you wanted me for
"We will give our lives to that, together, Phyllis, to that, and to
making this house a home. If God should give us--"
He did not finish the thought, for the form of Phyllis Bruce
trembled against his, and her lips had murmured "Yes." . . .
"Mr. Grant! Mr. Grant! The telephone is ringing," called the
clear voice of Zen Transley. "Shall I take the message?"
"Please do," said Dennison, inwardly abjuring the efficiency of the
lineman who had already made repairs.
"It's Mr. Murdoch, and he's highly excited, and he says have you
Phyllis Bruce here."
"Tell him I have, and I'm going to keep her."